Promoting Safety and Economic Operation through
Succession and Workforce Management

By Christine M. Fahnestock


A single site, PWR nuclear station implemented a strategy-based Succession and Workforce Management process to advance their strategic business plan, which emphasized safety and economic operation.  The purpose of the Succession and Workforce Management work was to:

1)      Link selection decisions, for key leadership positions, directly to the station’s business plan, and the future strategic leadership requirements,

2)      Assess and improve leadership benchstrength,

3)      Retain business-critical and high potential talent,

4)      Refine the parameters for planning a voluntary workforce reduction program.

The work was part of an overall business strategy, which, for this station, included preparation for being purchased at auction. 

Description of actual work:

The senior leadership team adopted a Succession and Workforce Management model, tailored for their specific strategic circumstances.  The work was driven by the senior management team, encouraged by the station’s joint owners, and facilitated by Fahnestock & Associates, an executive consulting firm that specializes in succession and workforce planning.  The foundation of the work was established by identifying and building consensus about the station’s future strategic business scenario(s).  The business scenario(s) were formulated by interviewing and cross-referencing information from the key business strategists on the senior management team; a step called organization analysis.  All Succession and Workforce Management process steps would be based on this organizational information.

Next, a determination was made as to where the highest return for talent investment could be realized for the station.  The Succession and Workforce Management process focused on the areas yielding the highest return on investment first.  A thorough demographic analysis of the station workforce was conducted to identify current and future talent and manpower gaps.  The demographic analysis served as a data and workforce issue discovery process for the senior team.  The data ultimately created a commonly shared, manpower management needs analysis. 

Twenty-plus business-critical positions were identified by senior management that were considered to be “…essential for effective operation,…and without which the safe and efficient operation of the business would be critically diminished.”  Criteria were also determined to assess back-up bench-strength for the 20+ positions.  Back-up talent was reviewed in several senior management team sessions.  As a result, specific developmental moves, development programs and coaching needs were identified to close talent gaps.  These actions, and their results were tracked over time.

A retention risk assessment of identified high potential and business-critical individuals was conducted.  Additionally, the executives decided what message they wanted to communicate to high potential individuals, and how they would go about this communication uniformly, in each of their divisions. 


The process also included identifying the few critical, emerging leadership performance competencies to be used in assessing internal/external executive candidates, based on the station’s future business scenario(s).


·        The workforce demographic analysis identified skill and manpower gaps, which were factored into planning a voluntary workforce reduction program, organizational restructuring, incentives and recruiting plans.

·        Development actions were implemented to close talent gaps for back-up candidates (for the 20+ business-critical positions), and to strengthen incumbents, where needed. 

·        Emergency back-up candidates were identified for the positions.  Also noted, were longer-term, internal candidates and/or where external candidates would be sought.

·        Specific retention “risk-management” actions and accountabilities were assigned to senior team members, in order to control the loss of high potential individuals.  This was especially critical in the pre-auction period.

·        *The identified strategic, emerging performance competencies were critical when an executive search and selection process was required to fill a senior leadership position, at a point midway in the implementation of the workforce planning process. 

*This occurrence perhaps most visibly demonstrated the relevance and value of the Succession and Workforce Management process.  The (internal and external) candidates participated in an executive assessment and selection regimen based on the strategic leadership factors identified in the Succession and Workforce Management process, as having significant leadership impact on safety and economic operation. The assessment of the factors, determined in the Success and Workforce Management process as having significant leadership impact on safety and economic operation, served as  input into the replacement decision for the senior leadership position.  

For information about developing high potential talent, please contact Fahnestock & Associates.
contact Christine Fahnestock, Principal, at (860) 673-0100, or e-mail: cmf@fahnconsulting.com

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Last modified: October 26, 2012